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While the holiday means more time for children to get up to speed on their school lesson, there is also value in giving them free time and space to initiate their own activities. Such opportunities can complement their learning in school, say educators.
Already, schools in Singapore have introduced holiday homework policies.
Riverside Primary School, for example, states on its website that pupils should spend just about three hours on homework for each subject over the June holidays.
Tonnine Chua, Principal of Concord Primary School, says the school ensures that its holiday programmes “would be enriching and different” from normal lessons. For instance, the school runs coding programmes that enhance logical and creative thinking, and a media literacy programme on cyberwellness so that pupils are “discerning” when they use online media.
What’s the holiday homework policy at…
“There have been thousands of research studies on homework, and there is no evidence that homework, especially in primary school, is beneficial for children’s learning.
This is controversial because although many parents are completely opposed to homework, many others believe that it is a good thing.
However, research does show that when parents take a deep interest in their child’s learning, it has a positive impact. This is why the home learning engagements we offer at NEXUS are interactive and encourage them to collaborate with their family.
It is important that holiday ‘learning’ is, as far as possible, chosen by the child. Parents should take an interest in their child’s questions and help them explore the world. For example, children should do exercise (structured or unstructured), read a book (and have books read to them), prepare and eat meals with the family, do daily chores to build responsibility, help with charity or visit the science or art museum.
NEXUS uses an online learning platform to suggest holiday learning activities.”
– Hayley Pereira, Senior Marketing Executive
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“Children should be engaged and involved in independent tasks that are fun during school holidays.
Parents can use the information shared from school newsletters to help children recall, retell and share their learning experiences.
Children must be encouraged to be independent and play creatively instead of being directed or entertained always.
Their holiday learning should consist of playing and acquiring new skills and interests, not desk-bound work.
Parents can facilitate children’s holiday learning by taking them to places of interest and extend their knowledge beyond the school environment. This will ensure that they are constantly using the skills that they have acquired at school. Plus, they will love a change in routine and look forward to school again.”
– Jayne Nadarajoo, Founding Director
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“During the holidays, preschool children should engage in imaginative play. They should also be reading (or be read to) age-appropriate books.
Ensure that they have sufficient time to explore the environment around them.
They should be encouraged to draw and colour while trying to keep within the lines and trace. All these activities help them practise their pre-writing skills. In addition, they could keep a holiday journal, where they can draw their days.
Parents should find time to play and talk with their kids. The best time would be before bedtime.
Parents can also bring children to the beach to build sand castles, or build Lego cities indoors. By spending time together, parents provide a multitude of learning moments.”
– Jackie Barkham, Director
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“We do not advocate for homework but encourage learning through play. We also use open-ended questioning style to stimulate children’s learning and thinking during play. Literacy enhancement can be achieved through creative play such as writing on the sand in a park or beach.
During the holidays, parents can inspire their children to learn through play with an objective.
For example, games such as spot the difference and word search can develop children’s concentration, focus skills and attention to detail.
At the beach, letting them build sand castles helps develop measuring skills, fine motor control and creativity development. Bringing children outdoors for learning is the best way for them to learn.”
– Denise Wong, Marketing & Communications Manager
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Do or do not?
Dr. Sirene Lim, a senior lecturer at SIM University who specialises in early childhood education, says parents can balance children’s academic work with “interesting real world experiences” not found in existing enrichment programmes.
This can involve learning an art form, constructing, creating or building things, or delving into topics that interest the child, such as dinosaurs, machines, space or cooking.
“What’s important for today’s children, who tend to have short attention spans, is for them to develop sustained interest in people and things that are around them,” says Dr. Lim.
Dr. Tay Hui Yong, a lecturer in the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning department at the National Institute of Education, says activities that help children see authentic applications to what they have learnt in school result in “more robust understanding” compared with repeated assessment exercises. “When they see different manifestations of concepts and how they can be applied, they are more likely to recognise them in novel situations,” adds Dr. Tay.
There has been growing interest in the integration of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) disciplines with art, say enrichment providers.
Such projects are also linked to design thinking, which requires thinking out of the box and looking beyond disciplinary boundaries.
It is important for parents to ensure that children have adequate leisure time over the holidays, stress both Dr. Lim and Dr. Tay.
Dr . Tay says: “Spending time with children is about family bonding, affirming their effort and growth. All children (and adults) need to balance activity with non-activity to allow the mind to wander.”
Dr . Lim says children can become self-motivated learners if they get more say in what to do with their free time. “If adults overly structure children’s use of time and always decide what they should do, children are less likely to take the initiative to be curious.”
From The Straits Times, December 2016
Additional reporting by Atifa Othman
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